Seraphim: Did Not Finish

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMichele Hauf Changeling Seraphim, Gossamyr, RhianaSeraphim by Michele Hauf

The year is 1433. Seraphim d’Ange is a young woman riding through France on a quest for revenge. The de Morte brothers attacked the d’Ange castle, killing Seraphim’s family. Seraphim was raped, wounded, and left for dead. Now she is disguised as “the Black Knight” and killing off the de Morte brothers one by one. Two down, three to go.

All of this takes place before Seraphim begins. Sera is now preparing to eradicate the third brother. She and her squire, Baldwin, meet a stranger on their journey, who joins them when it turns out that he has similar aims. The stranger is Dominique St. Juste, a handsome man with faery blood. Sparks fly.

Michele Hauf attempts an elevated, old-fashioned style, but breaks that tone with anachronisms: using “teen” to describe Baldwin, for example, and having people say “Really?” or “So?” The names don’t help either. Not only are the names unsubtly symbolic, but they don’t fit the place and time — this is supposed to be set in the real, historical France, where it’s unlikely that anyone was named Seraphim or Gossamer.

It may sound silly to quibble about anachronistic names when there are faeries and demons running around. When I read historical fantasy, though, I like to suspend disbelief and imagine that it really could have happened this way, but that the magical parts were “lost to history.” It doesn’t work when I can’t believe the “realistic” aspects of the story.

I got about 100 pages into Seraphim; thus far there has been little plot development except for the unfolding of the backstory. Instead the book is focused on bickering and bantering among Sera, Baldwin, and Dominique, which is made confusing by head-hopping and (at times) too few dialogue tags. I finally gave up when Dominique started brooding about an anti-faery comment Seraphim made — a comment she made to Baldwin when Dominique was not present. If a book is engaging in other ways, I can overlook errors like that, but in this case it was the last straw.

Changeling — (2004-2006) Publisher: Winter, 1433 — and Jeanne d’Arc’s ashes still glow… In the battle between Good and Evil, the Black Knight’s sword fells enemies with silent grace. The Knight has sworn that fallen angel Lucifer de Morte and his cruel brotherhood will pay for their reign of terror over France — and over the d’Ange family, where nearly all have died a terrible death. All but one… Yet the Knight’s hard-won battles and dented armor hide a larger secret. For “he” is actually Seraphim d’Ange. She is traveling to de Morte’s desnes, executing his demon henchmen along the way. Now, aided by Baldwin, a family retainer, and San Juste, a mysterious stranger, Sera grows closer and closer to her final target. Yet little does she know that there is one more aspect of power she herself holds…

Michele Hauf Changeling Seraphim, Gossamyr, RhianaMichele Hauf Changeling Seraphim, Gossamyr, RhianaMichele Hauf Changeling Seraphim, Gossamyr, Rhiana

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  1. I usually like unusual names but to set a book in an historical time period and then ignore the naming conventions of the existing culture is just annoying. Having 15th century characters with 21st century sensibilities also always destroys the illusion. I won’t go looking for these books!

  2. Yeah, the book’s not great. In the author’s defense, it’s pretty old, and she has some newer ones out that I may try sometime (though they’re about vampires, a subject about which I’m pretty jaded).

  3. Gary Chambers /

    If you can usually overlook such errors as a character knowing details of a conversation they weren’t present for, you’re much more tolerant a reader than me!

  4. Eh, I have some books where I love almost everything about it, but there’s a continuity error, and it irks the daylights out of me (and will reduce my rating) but if I like the rest of it, I’ll probably still finish and then go on to try the author’s other stuff.

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